Winnipeg Regional Health Authority safe crack pipe kit photographed on Thurs., Oct. 18, 2012.
Credits: JASON HALSTEAD/QMI AGENCY
The Selinger government is now handing out more than twice as many free crack pipe kits a year to junkies on Winnipeg streets compared to the first full year of the program in 2005.
Crack addicts can now get up to five taxpayer-funded pipe kits per day and "crack house operators" are also entitled - astonishingly - to five kits a day, according to a September 2012 Winnipeg Regional Health Authority report obtained by the Winnipeg Sun.
The NDP government, through the WRHA, launched the crack pipe kit program in August 2004.
The WRHA argues the kits help reduce communicable diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C among cocaine users because it results in fewer addicts sharing pipes. However, the WRHA has never performed an independent, controlled study to measure the outcomes - both positive and negative - of handing out free crack pipes to junkies, relying solely on conflicting conclusions from studies in other Canadian jurisdictions.
So they're giving more taxpayer-funded crack pipe kits than ever before, without knowing whether the program is doing more harm than good by giving junkies tacit approval to abuse illicit drugs.
The WRHA gave out a staggering 24,193 "Safer Crack Use Kits" to addicts in 2010-11 at a cost of $14,274, according to the report.
That's more than double the 10,228 kits given out by the WRHA's Street Connections program in 2005-06.
"In 2010 a decision was made to raise the maximum number of SCUKs distributed per person, within reasonable limits," the report stated. "This was based on the high level of requests for additional kits, reported breakage of stems and obvious need."
The interesting part about this program is the majority of addicts who contact Street Connections - 75%, according to the report - are only doing so to get a free crack kit.
Most are not contacting Street Connections to seek help to quit their deadly habit. The vast majority of them just want another free crack pipe kit.
The WRHA argues that even if they prevent one user a year from contracting HIV or Hepatitis C, the program is worth it. But there are serious problems with their logic on this issue.
Firstly, the WRHA has no idea if it's preventing anyone from contracting a disease because they haven't done a controlled study to determine that.
Secondly, they're not measuring the other side of the equation of this program. And that is, what impact does giving addicts tacit approval to use illicit drugs have on their long-term use of those drugs?
Does enabling drug addicts to use crack cocaine by giving them the tools to do so reduce their chances of kicking the habit?
We don't know because, again, there have been no controlled studies to examine those very important questions.
Those are questions the "harm-reduction" folks - those in favour of free crack kits and needle exchanges for junkies who shoot-up - always conveniently ignore.
Until they can answer those questions, they should immediately cease giving out these crack pipe kits.
Because at the end of the day, there is no "safe" way to use crack cocaine.
Crack Kit Rules
- Up to five kits a day are provided to crack users upon request.
- Up to five kits a day are provided to "crack house operators."
- Users must attend in person to a Street Connections vehicle to get the kit.
- The program does not do home visits. But if a crack addict has legitimate mobility issues, someone can pick up the kit for that person or a home visit could be arranged.
- Reselling crack kits is discouraged.
- Safer Crack Use Kit Distribution in the Winnipeg Health Region
- A huge spike in the number of free crack pipe kits handed out to addicts is concerning, the president of the Winnipeg's police union says.
- A September 2012 report from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says it distributed 24,193 "Safer Crack Use Kits" to addicts in 2010-11, more than twice as many as they gave out through the Street Connections program in 2005-06.